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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#13)

By Paul Semendinger

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Thirteen has often been seen as an unlucky number. For that reason, many players over the years have shied away from wearing uniform #13.


Spud Chandler wore the number first, for one season, in 1937. He also wore numbers 24 and 35 that year, so I don't suspect ol' Spurgeon wore #13 for very long.


In 1938, Lee Stine wore #13. He also wore #33 that year so I don't suspect Mr. Stine wore #13 for very long...


Cliff Mapes wore #13 in 1948, and he also wore #3 that year. He was the last Yankee ever to wear uniform #3 before it was retired for Babe Ruth.


Curt Blefary, a former Rookie of the Year (with Baltimore), wore #13 for two seasons in 1970 and 1971. He batted just .210 as a Yankee. Still, he wore the number for significantly longer than anyone else to that point. If I was writing this around 1972, I would have given the title to him.


Walt Williams wore #13 in 1974 and 1975. He hit .244 as a Yankee. If I was writing this around 1976, I would have given this recognition to him.


Doyle Alexander wore #13 in 1976, but he also wore #52 that year.


Bobby "Not Dr." Brown wore #13 in 1980 and 1981.


Kevin Smith played in six games as a Yankee in 1984-85. He wore #13.


If I had written this piece in 1985, I think Walt Williams would still be the best Yankee in uniform #13.


But then, finally, in 1986, a young almost kind-of would-be star emerged in #13 (he had worn #6 the year previous) - Mike Pagliarulo. I hoped that Mike Pags would be the Graig Nettles of his generation. He was hard-nosed. He played tough. He dove for balls. He hit homers. In 1986, he hit 28 homers. In 1987, he hit 32! But by 1989, he was in San Diego - traded for Walt Terrell. Uggg.


Following Pags was a long line of players, none who left much of a mark in uniform #13: Mike Blowers, Alvaro Espinoza, Torey Lovullo, Gerald Williams, Charlie Hayes, Willie Banks, Mike Figga, Jeff Manto.


If I was writing this piece in 1992, Mike Pagliarulo would surely have had the honor of being the greatest Yankee in uniform #13.


Jim Leyritz came along in 1993 and wore #13 through 1996 and then again in 1999-2000. Leyritz probably edges out Pags. Over their careers, Pags earned a total of 5.1bWAR as a Yankee, Leyritz 5.0. If it mattered enough, I'd have to break down the numbers to really see which player did better in uniform #13 (Leyritz also wore #12 for a short while).


Pags was one of my favorite players, but Jim Leyritz was a World Champion... and he hit the homer that probably turned around the 1996 World Series. (He also homered in the 1995 playoff series against Seattle.) Leyritz was a Yankee in nine seasons, Pags, just six.


Following Leyritz, Jose Vizcaino, Michael Coleman, and Antonia Osuna all wore #13.


If I was writing this article in 2003, I'd probably give the edge to Jimmy Leyrtiz.


Of course, in 2004, Alex Rodriguez came to the Yankees. As a Yankee, A-Rod won two MVP Awards. He was on the 2009 World Champions. Rodriguez played 12 years as a Yankee. He hit 351 homers and drove home 1,096 runs.


In 2021 and 2022, Joey Gallo wore #13. That didn't go so well...


***

Until Mike Pagliarulo came along, no player performed with any level of success in uniform for any sustained period in uniform #13. Pags had promise, but it went mostly unfulfilled.


Jim Leyritz then had some great moments and hung around for a while. His personal life after baseball involved a number of unfortunate situations.


A-Rod, of course, used PEDS and was suspended for an entire season.


Maybe #13 isn't a lucky number after all.


I'm writing this in 2022. It's clear that the best #13 in Yankees history was Alex Rodriguez.


One day another player will wear the number. Let's hope he is a player who has success and lots of good fortune.


***

Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com and the SABR BioProject.

***

PREVIOUS ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES: (All the links should work. If not, please let us know.)


1 Comment


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Dec 28, 2022

Reluctantly I agree, though I despise A-Fraud.

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